GruppeM Sets Fastest Lap in Zolder Free Practice
- Daniel Juncadella quickest on Friday at Belgian circuit
- Mixture of dry and wet running brings its challenges
- Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing ready for Zolder debut
Zolder, Belgium – Mercedes-AMG Team GruppeM Racing driver Daniel Juncadella set the fastest lap in Free Practice for round three of the 2021 DTM season at Zolder.
Juncadella topped the 20-car leaderboard on Friday with a time of 1m 28.112s that came early in the second 45-minute session, demonstrating GruppeM Racing's intentions of avenging a tough Lausitzring event with stronger results this weekend.
The start of the team's maiden visit to Zolder was somewhat of a baptism of fire, with Juncadella’s fastest lap coming on a tricky day that featured rain showers in both sessions which made it hard for all teams to find a rhythm.
GruppeM Racing focused on car setup during the opening stages of FP1, before a pair of red flag interruptions prevented it from submitting a competitive lap.
Juncadella's best effort of 1m 34.506s was therefore not representative of his and GruppeM Racing’s true potential, particularly considering a different Mercedes-AMG GT3 led the field.
Free Practice 2 took place later in the afternoon. The team was keen to send Juncadella out as early as possible, based on a compromised FP1 and a window of sunshine that opened the prospect of a decent lap time on Michelin’s slick tyres.
Juncadella accordingly shot to the top of the timing charts, shortly before the sudden return of rainfall which ultimately confirmed him as the fastest driver of the day.
Sensing an opportunity to gain further wet weather mileage, the GruppeM Racing mechanics fastened treaded tyres onto the #8 Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the remaining half an hour.
Several drivers had moments in the slippery conditions, including Juncadella who rotated at the exit of the Earste left-hander which begins the 4.010 km Zolder lap.
A light left-side barrier strike on the car’s rear end prompted GruppeM Racing to park its Mercedes-AMG GT3 for the remainder of FP2, however Juncadella’s pace earlier in the session clearly showed where the team intends to be this weekend.
While Zolder is a new track for DTM debutant GruppeM Racing, Juncadella is familiar with the Belgian venue having raced there during the 2019 season.
With Free Practice in the books, attention now turns to Saturday’s track action which starts with qualifying at 10 a.m. CEST, followed by a 55-minute (plus one lap) race at 2:28 p.m. CEST.
“It was a pretty short day. In the morning there were a lot of red flags and lots of rain spots. We focused on bedding some brake pads for the weekend to get them ready, so we couldn’t really do a lap. In the afternoon, I managed to do one qualifying lap which was good enough for P1. Then the rain came, so basically our dry running was over. Unfortunately when I went out on wets, the track was quite dry but the kerbs were not, and I made a small mistake on the exit of Turn 1, touching the kerb and spinning. I had a small contact with the wall, but only the rear bumper was damaged so nothing really to worry about. We are looking good for tomorrow.”
“We spent the first session bedding brakes and preparing for the rest of the weekend. The second session we were quick out of the pits, with everything freshly bedded in and ready to push. This showed with our P1 time and there was plenty more speed to be found. Unfortunately, the rain came and we all had to move to wets. We were keen to maximise our time in the wet, but early on the grip was lower than expected and we had a small off into the wall. This has caused us some cosmetic damage and the team will have it fixed in no time. We move forward positively into tomorrow for our first ever qualifying session at Zolder. Dani knows the circuit very well and with changeable conditions expected, anything could happen. At Lausitzring, it was only being blocked leaving our pit stop that cost us a podium. We are looking to avenge this and take some serious points from this weekend.”